Posted By Administration,
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2018
In light of recent regulatory events, the consumer media is turning to all of us and asking the question that everyone in the cremation industry hears most often:
How do I know this is my loved one?
A Chain of Custody procedure is never more important than in moments like these. Here, you can demonstrate your commitment to a family and leave them with confidence to trust you with the care of their loved one.
But what do we mean by chain of custody? Every step of your work in the handling of each case must be documented accurately and carefully: custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition. CANA recommends crematory facilities make a description of the cremation practice, policy, and procedures available to the family. And, even more importantly, the policy must by followed every time, no exceptions.
Chain of Custody
Many forms are used to document the steps in the cremation process. It may seem that some of the forms repeat the same information, but it is important to maintain complete, accurate, and cross-referenced records. Your firm should have a comprehensive written procedure guide outlining the steps in the process from receipt of the deceased to return of the cremated remains, and it should include the associated forms, verification, and documentation required. Chain of custody documentation, including the ID tag, ensure the identity of the remains and provide objective evidence of identification post-cremation.
Keep in mind that state and provincial laws governing documentation and record keeping range widely, and every crematory operator must learn what laws specifically apply to their location(s).
But chain of custody goes beyond merely complying with regulations. A thorough and followed chain of custody demonstrates professionalism by establishing and adhering to policies and procedures consistent with industry best practices. Every step of the process needs to be performed in absolute accordance with policies and procedures that have been designed to prevent errors.
Once the remains are in the custody of the crematory, it is important to track and record every step of the cremation process. In the event that there are ever any questions about any case, you will be able to demonstrate that the remains were appropriately handled at every stage. Policies, procedures, forms and all of the paperwork in the world are worthless without compliance and consistency. Doing it the same way every time helps assure that mistakes are not made. If you never do it differently, you will do it right every time.
Documenting chain of custody is key to avoiding lawsuits for negligence in this area. Every step of the way must be recorded without exception, and the records must be archived and accessible if needed. Inaccurate, incomplete, or unfollowed documentation is worse than not having it.
Be thorough and complete with every entry every time. Write legibly when filling out forms. A document that you cannot read is worthless. If you leave a field blank it will raise a red flag. Was that field forgotten? Or was it really not applicable? If there is a space to record information and you either do not have that information or it doesn’t apply to this individual, mark that fact down in the space.
Document retention and filing methods are important as well. If you can’t find something, even if it was filled out perfectly, it doesn’t exist.
If you use a third party for your cremation families, you must still prepare chain of custody procedures and require the crematory you work with to meet or exceed your standards. Ask to see their policies and tour their facility. Conduct random checks of the crematory and audit their paperwork as you would your own. You must be able to stand by the practices of their crematory and clearly describe the chain of custody to the families you serve.
If you operate as a third party crematory serving funeral homes, you know better than most the complications that can occur when working with a remote facility. Not only should any crematory working as a third party maintain the standards described above, but you must maintain your policies and follow the procedures for your various clients. Holding their staff to the standards you hold your own requires diligence. Keeping open communication and maintaining transparency allows your clients and their families to rest easy with loved ones in your care.
Assess Your Standards
Despite the importance of maintaining clear and comprehensive documentation throughout every step of the process, too many facilities make the same types of easily avoided errors. Overconfidence in experience, employees spread too thin, sacrificing thoroughness for efficiency, and choosing the company over compliance are common errors but indefensible. A key thing to remember about liability risk is how small, seemingly minor lapses can have huge consequences for the operator and the facility.
How do you know your chain of custody meets appropriate standards? Walk through your documentation with a hypothetical case (like the one below) and make sure you track the remains throughout the entire process: from when you first take custody of the remains until they leave your control.
Management should perform regular audits of the crematory’s record keeping to assure that all the procedures are being consistently performed. Because cremation has become the number one area of liability in the funeral profession, solid documentation accompanied by iron-clad policies and procedures are the best way to demonstrate the truth and ease the mind of a concerned family member.
What follows is a case study of a cremation gone wrong. The case is an amalgam of true events which have occurred in businesses over the past several years.
The decedent is Peggy Jones of Anywhere, USA. Peggy died alone in her home in July at the age of 62. Although she was married when she died, Peggy had been separated from her husband for 20 years. At the time of her death, Peggy was living with Mr. Smith, her partner of 18 years. Mr. Smith was traveling overseas when Peggy died, and thus, her remains were not discovered until several days after her death.
Peggy’s remains were discovered when a neighbor noted an odor emanating from Peggy’s home. The local authorities were notified, who in turn contacted your facility regarding the death.
ISSUE 1: Identification of the Remains at Removal
The medical examiner staff member was on scene when your removal team arrived. Having located Peggy’s driver’s license, the ME staff tagged the remains correctly, i.e., “Peggy Jones.” However, the remains were verbally identified as “Peggy Jonas.” The body bag contained a tag which also identified the deceased as “Peggy Jonas.” Finally, although her given name was “Peggy,” the ME staff prepared documents identifying the deceased as “Margaret” Jones. From the outset, Peggy’s remains had been identified in three ways - two of which were inaccurate.
The easiest way to cremate the wrong remains is improper identification.
What should have happened . . .
The removal staff should have personally examined the remains to confirm the identification affixed thereto. If any discrepancy among the documents, bag and tag affixed to the remains existed, then that discrepancy should have been resolved prior at removal.
ISSUE 2: Tracking and Identification of Remains from Removal to Crematory
The remains were placed into refrigeration at your facility. The refrigeration log reflected that the remains of Peggy Jonas were placed into refrigeration at 8:42 a.m. Due to the uncertainty over the cause of her unattended death, Mr. Smith requested that a private autopsy be conducted by State U. State U logged the remains out of refrigeration at your funeral facility at 5:00 p.m. that same day, having presented documents identifying Peggy as M. Jones. State U logged Peggy’s remains back into your care the following morning at 8:00 a.m., again, as M. Jones.
Each and every document must identify the remains correctly.
What should have happened . . .
You should have ensured that Peggy’s remains were identified correctly and in exactly the same way on each document making reference to them. Effective tracking and accurate cross-reference, is a must.
Cremation is Permanent
As it turns out, the language contained on nearly every cremation authorization form is true:
Cremation is an irreversible, unstoppable process.
Of course, one would think that the statement goes without saying, and yet, every cremation customer is reminded of the permanence of the cremation process. What makes the phrase worth repeating here, however, is that too often cremation providers fail to recognize the weight of the statement. Failing to follow standard practices jeopardize the trust of the cremation-buying public, as well as your license to practice.
By now, you may be thinking: “Any licensee that would make the type of mistakes described in this case doesn’t deserve to serve the cremation buying public.” But, mistakes just like these can be made every day, not from malice but from negligence and ignorance. Keep current on your state’s requirements related to identification, authorization and disposition. Audit your procedures to make sure they are thorough and followed by everyone. Doing so will protect you and your families from the devastation which can be caused by a simple error.
A crematory operator is a vital part of the overall process of turning a dead body into a living memory for a family. It is absurd to think that any good operator would want to do anything less than a perfect job for the family of the deceased. After all, it’s more about the family than anything else, right?
Excerpted from The Cremationist, Vol 54, Issue 1: “All Systems Go 4 Record-Keeping” by Larry Stuart, Jr. of Cremation Strategies & Consulting and CANA’s Crematory Operations Certification Program™ (COCP™) Module 4: Chain of Custody. Special thanks for Wendy Russell Weiner of Broad & Cassel for lending her experience and expertise with the case and important lessons we can all learn from.
Members can read the full article with specific recommendations paperwork to use and proper filing in Vol. 54, No. 1 Issue of The Cremationist. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access this and all archives of The Cremationist plus resources and statistics to help you find solutions for all aspects of your business -- only $470.
Always obtain expert legal advice on policies and procedures for compliance and liability review. Contact CANA’s own Legal Counsel Lara Price, Wendy Russell Wiener’s firm, Broad & Cassel, or any death care legal advisor. You can also learn more by contacting Cremation Strategies & Consulting for consultation on improving your systems.
Throughout his experience as President of Crematory Manufacturing & Service, Inc., Larry Stuart, Jr. has seen, first hand, the negative impact that poor crematory operations can bring about, both in the front and back of the house. Larry has written articles, developed cremation curricula, and spoken at numerous professional events. He has trained and certified thousands of cremation professionals across North America, all with a mission to advance the safety and efficiency of cremation facilities and the safety of their employees, and to foster a more positive impact on our community and our environment. As the founder of Cremation Strategies & Consulting, Larry continues his mission to educate our industry peers, our customers, and the public about cremation, its history, its cultural significance as part of the funeral rite, its impact on the environment, and operational best practices.
Wendy Russell Wiener is a partner at Broad and Cassel, LLP, and the chair of the regulatory department. Wiener practices regulatory insurance law and regulatory death care industry law, representing entities and individuals who interact with the administrative agencies that regulate all aspects of insurance and the death care industry. She represents clients in all types of licensing (for individuals and entities) and disciplinary matters, practice before the administrative tribunal, state and federal courts and interaction with regulators. Wiener is a member of the Federation of Regulatory Counsel (FORC), a limited group of lawyers who focus their practices on regulatory insurance law. She is a frequent contributor to the organization’s quarterly journal. Wiener is an active member of various professional and community organizations and is the former president of Temple Israel in Tallahassee. She is co-chair of the Tallahassee Jewish Food Festival and of the Southern Shakespeare Festival (Festival Day). She has served as past president of Raising a Healthy Child, Inc., and is involved with the ACT Board of the Young Actors Theatre.
processes and procedures
tips and tools
Posted By Jennifer Head, CANA Education Director,
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Do you have a budget for training and development? If you do, is it only for mandatory training required for maintaining licensure? If you answered no to the first question, or yes to the second question, read on.
Sadly, most people only pay for continuing education classes only because they have to. As long as they have the credits they need, that’s all that matters. In that case, they look for the bare minimum – something that offers the least amount of work for the most amount of credits at the cheapest rate. You all know what I’m talking about. Those $50 online classes that get you 4 hours of continuing education credit. Four hours and $50 later, you haven’t actually continued your education or developed professionally because few people learn anything from a “class” where you read endless pages of content, or “watch” boring narrated slides while you’re really catching up on CANA’s blog.
But what if the money spent on that required continuing education could actually help boost your bottom line?
Successful companies know that training and development (T&D), as well as succession planning and anything related to workforce development, should be an integral part of your business strategy. Your people are your most important asset, so they should receive the time, energy and investment that shows it.
What do successful companies do? They make a Competency Model – they outline all of the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) a person needs to be successful in a given job or job area. Training dollars are focused on filling the gap between the skills employees have and those they need; since the competencies are tied to business goals, you are spending money on personnel (read: professional) development that will directly impact the bottom line.
These competency models are also used in succession planning and career growth. When you have them available for all positions, employees know what is expected of them, especially if they want to be promoted or move to a different position in the company. When hiring new employees, the models help you identify what training you may or may not need to provide if you hire a particular person.
Return on Investment
If improving your bottom line isn’t enough motivation to focus on T&D, maybe keeping qualified employees will. Are your employees getting poached by other firms because of the industry’s talent shortage? Continued opportunities for development and advancement keeps employees engaged and reduces turnover.
What about the retirement of the Baby Boomers? It’s no secret that a skills gap exists between what employers need and the skills many of our future employees have. If you’re facing the looming retirement of experienced staff, getting new employees in and up to speed quickly is essential. That means starting now with comprehensive succession and T&D plans.
“But wait!” you say. “Paying for classes is one thing. But the travel expenses, lodging and food, in addition to the lost work time, it all adds up!” Yes, it does, and I have several responses. First, the long-term payoff of having well-trained staff more than covers the classes, the travel expenses and the lost work time (or it should, if you choose quality training programs). Plus, the commitment you demonstrate to your employees makes them feel valued and that you are invested in their future. Second, properly trained and qualified staff generally leads to lower legal risk, which is priceless – ask anyone who has been sued.
So how can you provide quality education in a more budget friendly way? Online programs are a great option since they eliminate the travel.
Quality Online Education
I earned my Master’s Degree in 2005 and the program was entirely online; it was cutting edge for its time. I remember having to watch video lectures every week for class, mailed to me on VHS tapes, and promptly falling asleep on the couch within 20 minutes. BORING! Don’t get me wrong, the program was tough, and I put the work in to prove I was worthy of the degree (just ask me about my work product sample!). But studies show, and my personal experience agrees, an interactive online learning experience is more effective. It wasn’t available back then, but we’re capable of this now, 13 years later, with all the technology advancements.
Unfortunately, if you want to take quality online education that actually increases the bottom line, you may struggle to find it. Remember that $50 class for four hours of credit? That’s not the quality I mean. Research shows that lectures aren’t effective for adults to learn, yet it continues to be the delivery mechanism of choice—especially for online courses—because it’s easy for those putting the presentation together.
Truly valuable online opportunities can be rare. Maybe that’s why there are still states, like Pennsylvania, that don’t accept continuing education credits obtained through online or distance learning methods. They know that there haven’t been many—if any—truly effective online programs available. CANA is changing that.
Though it can be costly and time intensive and requires a unique skill set to develop, the use of online education that is designed following best practices is now an expectation within the most successful companies. Unfortunately, there are still many industries that lag behind in this area—ours being one of them. This is why it’s important for CANA to set the standard. Our association needs to show what quality online continuing education looks and feels like.
But how do you know if you are investing in quality education, especially when it’s offered online? There are three key criteria to consider before purchasing an online course.
- Learners should be active participants in the learning experience. Notice I don’t use the word attendee or registrant. The word learner implies that participants are actually going to contribute something and not sit passively.
- The course should include a combination of video, images, animations, and audio and should not simply be a narrated slide deck.
Most importantly, it should require the learner to think and to do. This helps them process the information and think about how they will apply it to their daily tasks. That’s where we see the return on investment.
Next time you think about using any education, but especially online education, think quality and return on investment. Let that be your guide to selecting courses that will work for you and your staff.
Ask for Help
Not sure how to get started developing a defined professional development plan for your employees? I’d love to talk to you. Call 312-245-1077 or email me Jennifer@cremationassociation.org and I'll work with you to achieve your goals.
A former high school science teacher, Jennifer Head began working for the American Foundry Society in 2005 after receiving her Master’s Degree in Education. She was responsible for the administration and operations of the AFS Institute’s programs and facilities, and initiated a complete redesign of Institute programming, including both classroom and online courses. A Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP), she brings to CANA a wealth of experience in best practices for workplace learning.
tips and tools
Posted By CANA Symposium Committee,
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
This year’s Symposium will be our best yet. The committee and staff selected the theme, Connecting the Dots, to help attendees find success by combining critical elements of running a business into one comprehensive strategy. From beginning to end, we’ll build on the content presented, wrapping with a big picture view of how it all fits together.
In brief: The foundation comes from establishing and understanding the power of your story. From there, tell that story though your brand advocates or key staff and community members. Their online reviews leverage your position to improve your online reputation and get found.
Once you have their attention, keep it by transforming their interactions with you into something memorable, especially with the addition of a therapy dog. But none of this can succeed without evaluating these individual steps and making changes for continuous improvement.
We are so excited to bring these experts together for you in Vegas, we know you’re going to love it!
This event took the work of many people. Here’s what CANA’s Symposium committee members are excited about, and why you need to register now to join us at this remarkable event.
Jennifer Head, CANA Education Director – I’m most excited for our Keynote Speaker, Kelly Swanson. Not only is she an award-winning storyteller who can take you right to the heart of a problem, she’s hilarious! Her message on crafting the right story is so critical for our industry right now. As I attended a presentation given by a different storytelling expert, I watched how, in a matter of minutes, she transformed a story that did nothing emotionally to one that tugged at my heartstrings and made me happy to buy.
That’s how you create brand advocates- people who tell your story for you. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you. It’s about them. And you have to let them know that through your story. Don’t believe me? Let Kelly explain it to you at the Symposium. She’ll present two dynamic sessions at the conference, and whether you own a business or work for one, whether you are a practitioner or supplier, her message will resonate with you. I promise.
Lindsey Ballard, Ballard-Sunder Funeral & Cremation – Our committee considers many options when selecting a hotel, and we’re excited to be returning to the Paris for a second year. The Paris Las Vegas Hotel is such a wonderful place to be when you're in Vegas. It's visually stunning, loaded with restaurants and entertainment, and the central location on the famed strip can't be beat. Our meeting rooms for the symposium are beautiful and provide the perfect ambience for our event.
Of course, I’m really looking forward to the Therapy Pet panel presentation. My dog Fletcher has been going through training to become a therapy dog at our funeral home, and I’ve learned a lot over the last year. He won’t be coming, but I have lots of pictures! Fellow committee member Robert Hunsaker as well as CANA member J.P. Di Troia will join me as we share our therapy dog journeys with you and provide some guidance about adding one to your team. We’ll also host one of the roundtables during the Coffee Klatch. I hope to see you there!
Sheri Stahl, The Island Funeral Home & Crematory – While CANA focuses on providing quality programming and exhibits, we also know that Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. We like to end our evenings early, so you can continue the networking on your own as you go out and enjoy all that Glitter Gulch has to offer. Whether you hit the tables and slots, take in a show, or enjoy the variety of cuisine (and famous buffets), Las Vegas has something for everyone. And if you can’t decide, you can stay in and enjoy all that Paris has to offer. Personally, I can't wait to see all my CANA peeps!
Scott MacKenzie, MacKenzie Vault, Inc. – As supplier liaison for the CANA board and chair of the committee, my focus is usually on the exhibits. We have over 40 exhibitors committed to supporting you the same way you support families who choose cremation. CANA’s Symposium is the best place to learn about new cremation products and services.
Vendors from almost every area – technology, products, supplies, equipment, personalization and more – will be on-hand to show you what’s new and talk about what families are asking for as the personalization and DIY trend continues to grow. Your vendors are your best partners as your businesses continue to evolve to meet the demands of an ever-changing industry.
Barbara Kemmis, CANA Executive Director – And don’t forget, just for owners and managers, a new kind of event! The Art of Selling Cremation: A Preneed Summit
This one-day, highly interactive workshop places you with marketers and experienced providers to answer your questions and find new solutions to your preneed challenges. We have experts on using demographic data and targeting the right markets, advice on selling value over price with the staff you have or specialists, and stories from experience on administering and selling across multiple brands online and in-person.
We’re excited to see the discussions that emerge. Limited spots available, register now!
Join us for fun and quality professional development February 6-8 at CANA's 2018 Cremation Symposium! Register today.
Posted By Administration,
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Happy New Year from CANA!
As we lay 2017 to rest and get used to writing 2018 on our paperwork, we asked a few CANA members what resolutions they have for 2018 and each said the same thing: I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.
Instead, they strive to improve the performance and service of their company throughout the year by supporting their staff's professional development, by protecting the safety and well-being of their operators and their image, and by caring for themselves and their colleagues the same way they care for our communities everyday. These goals aren't something we can do in one day, but something we can continue to strive for throughout the year.
So from our experts to you:
And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For auld lang syne.
We look forward to seeing all that you accomplish in 2018 and continuing our support of our members and the industry throughout the year.
Heffner Funeral Chapel & Crematory, Inc.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. When I’m motivated over a topic, I make a commitment and set timelines for accountability to follow through, timelines for myself included. These timelines may or may not coincide with January 1st.
As much as I’m flattered to be asked to contribute to CANA’s Cremation Logs and make recommendations for staff training in the new year, I’m not even sure I know what “improving staff training” means. I also flinch at the word “training” – I think we train dogs and we educate people.
Heck, for some employers, any training would be perceived as an improvement. My guiding principle, from the book Good to Great, is that you get “right people on the bus and wrong people off the bus.” If the wrong people snuck on the bus, either by acquisition of a firm, marriage to a relative or simply a wrong hire, then no amount of training will change the person. Instead, you need to do some top-grading and weed out the low performers.
Great people in end-of-life care sincerely want to do all they can for a family in grief. Every year they want to enhance their skills to serve. They want to be the very best informed and most knowledgeable caregiver they can possibly be. If those are not obvious traits, than the wrong person is on the bus!
Top-grading is probably an excellent resolution. The right staff will rise to the top and the opportunities for improvement will be natural. The problem is, it may start with the owner – it’s up to management to decide what talents they need and what skills they’ll teach or have others teach for them by sending staff to appropriate seminars and continuing education.
In the end, the words don’t matter if there is no downside to refusing to be enlightened – make sure the right people are on the bus and get the others off. Not just January 1st, make a point of doing this continuously.
Larry Stuart, Jr.
Cremation Strategies & Consulting
Generally, I think New Year's resolutions are ridiculous. We try to solve all of our perceived problems at the stroke of midnight only to fail miserably, usually before Valentine's Day. The key to true success is to declare broad-based, realistic resolutions and work on them all year long. Baby steps, if you will. For instance, a cremationist could resolve to focus on improving three important facets of cremation operations: safety, the environment, and the public’s perception of a crematory.
So, for 2018, repeat after me: "I resolve to be an even better cremationist by working to improve Operational Safety, Environmental Impact, and Public Perception regarding cremation.
Working on these three goals in progressive steps will be much easier to accomplish than resolving to “never leave the crematory during the cremation,” because we know that there will be times that, sooner or later, this will happen. Then, you will feel defeated and risk scrapping the whole thing. Instead, implement the following procedures throughout the new year. Here are a few examples of things that will help to succeed with your New Year’s resolution.
- Improve Operational Safety: Don’t bypass or short-cut the cool-down step of the process. If your equipment is meant to cool-down between cremations (and most are) you should never bypass this to rush the process. Typically, operating procedures call for a cool down period between cremations to approximately 600ºF before the chambers can be safely swept out. Waiting until the unit is cool to perform the next cremation also helps prevent premature ignition as you load the next case — which can be extremely dangerous. Waiting can also help to prevent a “run away” cremation; the cremation is better controlled with less heat at the start, and the likelihood of overheating is decreased. And remember, regardless of the unit, operators must always wear personal protective equipment to safeguard against harm from the heat.
- Reduce Environmental Impact: No matter how new and advanced your equipment is, failure to operate it properly can and will produce hazardous emissions and harm our environment.
- Scrutinize. Examining the materials included with the remains assures operator safety and reduces the volume of pollutants released into the atmosphere. Often friends and loved ones will place objects in the casket as a token of remembrance or as a personal gesture. Items like stuffed animals, picture frames, bullets, plastics, etc., are not meant to be cremated and could damage the unit, cause unnecessary toxic pollution, or even compromise the safety of the operator.
NOTE: In some parts of North America, the operator is not legally allowed to open the casket prior to cremation due to regulatory laws. Confirm compliance with all relevant laws and take reasonable action to ensure the safety of yourself and your community.
Any new policy implemented in effort to improve operator safety and improve environmental impact will help to paint cremation in a better light with the public. News stories that feature cremation fires or YouTube videos that show dark billowing smoke being emitted from a cremator stack do more harm than just to the environment and the safety of the operator. They tarnish our credibility and creates a negative perception with the public.
Improve Public Perception: The easiest resolution is to assure that your facility is always clean and tidy. As cremation becomes even more popular, so will the public’s desire to visit crematories before deciding on which firm to use, which will increase your visitation and witnessed cremation services. Open and clean facilities with an engaged and knowledgeable staff are going to win every time. Clean your place daily. Wipe up any spills with a sanitary solution of 1:10 bleach and water as they happen. Sweep the floors and mop as appropriate. Dust off all surfaces on a regular basis. Treat your crematory like a funeral home is treated. It should be a showplace just as nice as any other room in your business.
- Resolve to get CANA Certified: Even if you are not an actual operator, the knowledge, information, and insight presented at a CANA Crematory Operations Certification class will not only improve the safety of your operation, our environment, and public perception, it will improve the service of funeral professionals toward their families.
As a fellow cremation professional and so-called expert, I will join you in the resolution to implement strategies and programs to help increase the safety of the crematory operator, lessen the environmental impact of cremation, and to continue to educate the public with facts, science, and emotional realities, all in the hopes of improving their perception of what goes on inside a crematory. Happy New Year!
Market Director for Manitoba / Northern Ontario, Service Corporation International
Ours is a difficult job. We meet people at the worst moments of their lives and guide them through this period of initial hurt until their mother, child, grandfather, loved one is laid to rest. And then we say goodbye. They continue on their grief’s journey, we take the next call. Our journey stops, or never stops as the phone keeps ringing, without any satisfying conclusion.
So in 2018, I want us all to make a New Year’s Resolution to take better care of ourselves.
I need to take my own advice here. We are too often a profession in which we put others’ needs before our own. This work selects those who have so much to give and who are determined to carry on through terrible situations. We continually respond in a professional and dignified way to national tragedies, horrific accidents, or acts of violence and serve our communities while grieving ourselves while our own family awaits our return.
We must take care of our mental and spiritual health and watch for warning signs in ourselves and our colleagues. We must know when it’s enough and when to reach out and ask for help. That may mean reaching out to a colleague for help with a difficult case, or for professional help to avoid or cope with a breakdown. Yes, was as death care providers can hurt too.
Your network inside the profession, your social groups outside, your hobbies and passions, your family and friends all serve important functions to ground you in life when our career surrounds us is death. This year, let’s resolve to celebrate these groups, to take stock of our physical, mental and spiritual health, and to reach out to others when we need it or we feel they do.
The CANA network is one of the most powerful benefits of attending a CANA event and membership with the association. CANA provides the space where cremation professionals can share important conversations with people who get you and your business. Consider connecting with CANA and other industry experts at the 2018 Cremation Symposium for topics that inspire innovative thinking.
Not a member? Join your business to access this article and all archives of The Cremationist plus advice, tools, techniques, and statistics to help you understand how to increase your cremation success -- only $470.
Ernie Heffner shares 40+ years of professional funeral service. He has a diverse background in the operation of end-of-life care related enterprises including funeral homes, cemeteries, a monument company, 10 funeral business relocations and 5 new replacement facility constructions. Ernie has received national recognition and has been a featured speaker on numerous occasions for a variety of state and national industry organizations, related industry organizations as well as his local public speaking engagements for community education.
Larry Stuart is a graduate of Kent State University and is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) as Supplier Liaison. Through his experience Larry has seen first-hand the negative impact that poor crematory maintenance and improper operating procedures can bring about. Larry has spoken at numerous industry events and has conducted crematory operator training classes across North America with a mission to advance the safety of cremation facilities and their employees and to more positively impact our community and our environment.
Michael Sheedy has been a funeral director for over 20 years and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and is a member of the Ottawa District Funeral Association. In his tenure with Pinecrest Remembrance Services, he has been part of the creation of Ontario’s first full service facility with onsite visitation and receptions.
processes and procedures
tips and tools
Posted By Kelly Swanson,
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
My Grandmother’s Funeral
Five years ago we buried my grandmother, a deliciously bold woman who lived life on her own terms. I was her favorite, or so she said. I’m pretty sure it’s true. Everything that makes me weird (which I consider a blessing, by the way) came from my grandmother. I miss her smile, her warm hands that smelled of buttermilk biscuits, and her green beans that would leave a sheen of lard gloss on your lips for weeks.
I had the honor of delivering her eulogy being the only professional speaker in the family. (Yes, Aunt Myrtle, it is a real job.) As I stood at the podium, trying to sum up this woman’s 88 years on earth in 25 minutes, I looked around and realized that this was all wrong. None of this was what she would have wanted. The setting wasn’t right. The music was all wrong. People were bored. I’m pretty sure even Granny had stopped listening hours ago.
A stuffy room with plastic mauve flowers, green shag carpeting, and faded watercolor prints – well, it wasn’t my grandmother. She deserved something more than that. Something more to honor the fact that she was here. Something as unique as she was, to close out her chapter on earth. I found it ironic that we had spent a year planning my cousin Nadine’s wedding and a day planning my grandmother’s funeral. I had loved my grandmother for 47 years. Nadine’s marriage didn’t last six months.
After Granny’s service, a group of us sat around the fire in the lobby of the hotel sharing stories that made us laugh and cry, stories about the woman we knew and the woman we would miss. I’m pretty sure Granny was there the entire time, laughing harder than any of us. At some point we stumbled into a conversation about how we wanted our own funerals to be. The typical kind of conversation that happens when death stops your normal routine and makes you face your own mortality.
We all described our most important last wishes ranging from “nothing fancy,” to “please put me in this dress,” to “sprinkle me across the lake behind the mountain cabin and make sure it’s not windy that day so my ashes don’t go flying back into your face.” I made it quite clear that I wanted a big turnout, with lots of music (a roaming harpist would be nice) and some professional wailers, just to make sure everybody is certain of how much I will be missed. I want high drama. Standing room only, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and please show clips from my best speeches. Make sure they give me a standing ovation, and you can probably sell some of my books in the back. Hey, what can I say? I’m a motivational speaker. It’s what we do.
My ability to make people laugh, inspire them, move them, teach them, change their perspective and heal their heart, has never been about the points I teach, but the stories I tell. My entire career and every amazing door that has opened, was opened because of my ability to tell a good story. No amount of data or information can impact on an emotional level like a story can. Master that skill and you can master any job.
As I sat there listening to the stories, I saw how passionate people were about how they wanted to be ushered out of this world – how they wanted their story to end. Each story was as unique as its author.
The funeral home did everything they said they would do for my granny. It was a perfectly nice service. They did all the right things. And yet, I’m pretty sure that not one person in that room will seek them out in the future. Why? Because the funeral home told the wrong story.
Why Story Matters to Your Business
Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
Hello CANA. Kelly Swanson here. I’m a motivational speaker and a comedian, which means I tell you that you can do anything and then I tell you I’m just kidding. I’m delighted and honored to be spending time with you at your 2018 Symposium as your keynote speaker and strategic storytelling expert. I’m even more delighted that I get this opportunity today to say a few words about a subject I have been studying my whole life – storytelling.
There’s no question about it, no matter what our industry, we are all fighting for business in a crowded market – to get customers and keep them, to get our employees to do more with less and be happier doing it, to convince our buyer of a need they don’t realize they have, to be stronger leaders crafting a lasting legacy, and to keep our business relevant in the face of constant change and uncertainty. And, in your case, trying to make a lasting impression when often you are the last thing on their mind.
Wow. No wonder we’re stressed. I’ve faced these issues in my own business and so have hundreds of other audiences I’ve visited over the years. All of these issues have one thing in common – influencing people. Yep. Getting people to do what we want them to do. No matter how much the playground changes, the game hasn’t. Our business success is in direct correlation to how well we influence people.
The ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial to almost every phase of enterprise management. It works all along the business food chain. A great salesperson knows how to tell a story in which the product is the hero. A successful line manager can rally the team to extraordinary efforts through a story that shows how short-term sacrifice leads to long-term success. An effective CEO uses an emotional narrative about the company’s mission to attract investors and partners, to set lofty goals, and to inspire employees. Sometimes a well-crafted story can even transform a seemingly hopeless situation into an unexpected triumph.
Peter Guber, author, American film producer & executive and Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, from HR Magazine September (2008)
The way I see it, we are all sales people. Like it or not, we are trying to influence people all day long – whether it’s to get someone to date us, hire us, do business with us, trust us, give money to us, or simply getting our kid to clean up his room. We’re all in the business of persuasion. Every person who works in your company has the ability and opportunity to influence someone else – to affect the brand, the mood, and the culture of the business. Many of us already understand that. But where some of us miss the boat, is the next step…understanding that influence is emotional.
I’ll explain the science behind all of this to you when I get there, so let’s skip right to the thing you need to know most: If influence is like sales, then the cardinal rule of sales applies – that people buy from people they like, trust, believe, and feel like they know.
Like. Trust. Believe. Know. Take a look at those words. Those words have nothing to do with what you make people think and everything to do with how you make people feel – about you, your brand, and themselves. People buy based on emotion but many of us don’t get there. We stay on the surface. We miss that deeper opportunity to go beyond communicating to connecting.
Authentic connection is the key strategy in business today. No matter what you’re selling, where you’re selling it, or how you’re getting the message out – giving them the facts alone doesn’t work. It’s the reason why some win and some lose without ever understanding why.
Don’t Believe Me, Ask Around
I’ve been polling people in every audience where I speak. I just spoke for a college admissions group so I polled parents and students who’ve been on recent college tours. My goal? To find out why they chose the one they chose.
I’ve polled buyers of healthcare, insurance, beauty products, financial planners, attorneys – you name it – and while they were all looking for something different, their reason for choosing who they did were consistently the same. They chose the one they connected with emotionally.
As soon as I found out I would be speaking for you, I conducted another survey with my social media groups about you: your businesses and the services they’d experienced there. I gathered their stories and studied the reasons some were happy and some weren’t. Again – it was all about connection.
That’s what we’re going to talk about when I come visit. I’m going to share with you the best (and perhaps only) tool that will connect with anybody you want to influence – STORY.
Many businesses have already figured out the value of strategic storytelling, or at least they think they do. But they are still not connecting with their buyer. Why? First, because they don’t really know what a story is – how to craft it and how to use the tool to get a desired effect. They’re basically just telling stories because someone told them they should. Many people talk about storytelling, but few can really teach it. Second, many businesses are telling the wrong story or, at the very least, an unfinished story. You may think it’s just about telling the world your story. But it’s not. There are actually three stories you should be telling.
That’s enough for you to chew on today. If you understand why connection matters over communication, you’ve got enough to think about. The next step is how to use story to do it. We’ll go deeper into it later – my six secrets to connecting and my story formula to help you craft stories that convince and persuade – at CANA’s 2018 Cremation Symposium.
Just remember this: No matter how technologically advanced we get, or how much the playground changes and shifts quickly under our feet, the truth still remains the same – this is a people business. It’s about relationships. It’s about creating authentic connections. Focus on that, and the rest will fall into place.
Want to read some more articles or continue the conversation? Find me on LinkedIn.
I can’t wait to meet you at convention and swap stories. Buckle up, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!
Join Kelly and CANA at the 2018 Cremation Symposium to learn how you can set your business and yourself apart with the power of storytelling. Register soon for your chance to be in the “hot seat” and develop your story live, onstage with Kelly Swanson! Sponsored by Batesville.
Connect the Dots with us, February 6-8 at Paris Las Vegas at the 2018 Cremation Symposium.
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, motivational speaker, comedian, expert guest on The Fashion Hero TV show, author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale and The Story Formula, and a strategic storytelling expert. In addition to making people laugh, motivating them, and helping them tap into the passion and purpose for what they do and why it matters, she teaches them how to use story to raise their level of influence. She is a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at the 2018 CANA Symposium. www.MotivationalSpeakerKellySwanson.com
tips and tools